The suspense and drama of qualifications was back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend as Pole Day matched the electricity of Bump Day at the historic 2.5-mile oval.
An impressive crowd filled many of the stands open at IMS today as Ed Carpenter took the Verizon P1 Award with a top speed of 229.618 MPH in his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
For Carpenter, it is his third pole award in the last six years at the Indianapolis 500 and the third pole ties him on the all-time list with legends such as Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Tom Sneva, Arie Luyendyk and Scott Dixon.
Rick Mears still leads all-time with six Indianapolis 500 poles.
Starting alongside Carpenter in the front row will be Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, who was nearly a full mile per hour slower than Carpenter at 228.761 MPH. On the outside of the front row for next weekend’s race will be Will Power, who registered a four-lap average of 228.607 MPH.
The rest of the Fast Nine shook out with Josef Newgarden 4th and Sebastien Bourdais as the highest-qualifying Honda by placing 5th on the charts today. The remaining Ed Carpenter Racing drivers were Spencer Pigot, who qualified 6th, and Danica Patrick, who qualified 7th for her final Indianapolis 500.
Despite having the crowd behind him on the final run of the day, Helio Castroneves was only able to muster the 8th-quickest time in the Fast Nine while Scott Dixon rounded out the group with a four-lap average at 227.262.
That time was more than 2 miles per hour slower than the pole time set by Carpenter.
The surprise of the day was seeing Andretti Autosport driver and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi tumble all the way to a 32nd place starting position. After two laps above 226 MPH, Rossi dropped speed dramatically as the handling in his No. 27 Honda fell by the wayside.
The theme that has been building over the week was the relative lack of speed shown by the Honda teams as seven of the Fast Nine drivers were Chevrolet pilots while notables Ed Jones, Graham Rahal and Rossi all qualified outside the first nine rows.
It was a strong day for the A.J. Foyt Racing stable of Brazilian drivers as Tony Kanaan was the quickest driver in the first group to qualify while rookie teammate Matheus Leist was directly behind him.
The duo will start 10th and 11th, respectively, for next Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
A surprise fourth row starter will come in the way of rookie fill-in Zachary Claman de Melo who will start 13th in his No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Claman de Melo has performed wonderfully over the past week as a replacement for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi.
Other notables include Marco Andretti starting 12th between rookies Leist and Claman de Melo, defending race winner Takuma Sato starting 16th, Robert Wickens starting 18th as the highest placing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, and James Davison all the way up to 19th after barely making the show yesterday with a time that was 33rd-quick.
Practice for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 continues tomorrow, Monday, May 21 with action commencing at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Fans can follow along live at RaceControl.IndyCar.com and of course at Open-Wheels.com, where we will keep you up to date on the latest news.
The 102nd Indianapolis 500 will play out in front of an enormous crowd on Sunday, May 27 with the green flag dropping at 12:20 p.m. Coverage from ABC starts at 11:00 a.m. Eastern while the entire IMS Radio Network will be on their game with coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. as well.
Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR Media.